Portugal’s seven goals without reply against Korea DPR sent shockwaves through the FIFA World Cup™, as Carlos Queiroz’s men chalked up the most comprehensive victory so far in South Africa 2010. It was also A Selecção das Quinas’ biggest win of all time in FIFA World Cup finals and represents the high point of a startling run of form going back some 18 months.
The story starts in late 2008, a difficult period for the Portuguese. A 3-2 reverse at home against Denmark in FIFA World Cup qualifying was followed by two goalless draws against Sweden and Albania. But the lowest point came in a November friendly away to Brazil. A crushing 6-2 defeat caused widespread alarm and Portugal’s chances of making an impression in South Africa seemed slim to say the least.
Those fears proved to be unfounded. After their battering in Brasilia, the Portuguese regrouped and went on to put together an unbeaten run of 18 games, including eight friendlies, comprising eleven wins and seven draws. However, this Friday will see that run of form put to its sternest test as they once again face off against the very team that inflicted that last, crushing defeat.
Of course, there is more than Portuguese pride at stake in Durban on Friday. The Brazilians have already sealed their place in the last 16, and their European counterparts will hope to join them, with the winner taking first place in Group G.
Any good run of form relies as much on a tight defence as a free-scoring attack and Portugal’s record of 32 goals with only three conceded gives some indication as to why the Lusitanians have put together such an impressive record of late. But the secret may actually lie in the presence of their very own lucky charm, goalkeeper Eduardo.
The current Portugal No1 made his international debut in his country’s first game of 2009, immediately after that 6-2 reverse and he is yet to taste defeat with the national team. According to Tiago, who bagged two of those seven goals against Korea DPR, the talented shot-stopper deserves all of the accolades that have come his way.
“He hasn’t been with the national team very long and he has been outstanding. He helps us a lot and gives the whole team a lot of confidence. I only hope he can carry on like this,” said the midfielder, who is one of the players remaining from that fateful game against the Brazilians in November 2008.
Tiago also reserved special praise for his side’s defensive unit, mindful that Portugal need only a draw to go through. “We haven’t conceded many goals and that’s very important, especially in a World Cup. The defence has been superb and we want to keep that going although we know that it will be very difficult against Brazil. If we don’t concede then we’ve done our job and that’s one more step towards our dream.”
“It was quite a while ago now, but obviously we haven’t forgotten it. It was a painful defeat but it was also a real turning-point because since then we haven’t conceded many goals. Now we’re a much more compact unit and much more confident. I’m sure that the game on Friday will be a great match.”